ELIZABETHTON — Updates on the proposed West Elk Avenue development plans and the central business district improvement plans were presented during Thursday’s meeting of the Carter County Tomorrow Executive Board on Tuesday.
Carter County Tomorrow President Tom Anderson said educating property owners and developers was a part of the initial effort. Because the West Elk Avenue plans include a proposal for the first tax increment financing in the county’s history, Anderson said it would also be important to educate Carter County commissioners on how such a method works and how it benefits the county. He said a workshop on tax increment financing will be scheduled in the next few months.
Downtown Elizabethton is already developed, so the plans for its improvements use a improvement district, with a small annual assessment to property owners. Anderson said he is trying to interest the property owners not just because they would pay the estimated tenth of a percent special assessment, but because the plan could only move forward with a majority of the property owners.
Anderson is also providing education for another project in which Carter County Tomorrow is encouraging, a small sewer system for the commercial district in the village of Roan Mountain.
Anderson said he is holding discussions with the Roan Mountain Citizens Club to explain the benefits and how the system would be funded and operated. He said the plans are to limit the sewer development to about 100 commercial properties. He said the system will be designed to be expandable if demand grows. The project will have some grant funding. The rest would be financed by the ratepayers over a 20- to 30-year bond. He said the Roan Mountain Utility District would have to operate the system.
Anderson also gave an update on the recent acquisition of the Highlands Group plastic recycling operation in the Watauga Industrial Park by Georgia Pacific. He told the board this is the first plastics recycling effort by the global corporation that has traditionally been heavily involved in the recycling of paper.
Anderson said Georgia Pacific pans to eventually expand the operations from it current 1 million pounds a month to 30 million pounds a month. He said the acquisition of the plant by Georgia Pacific was good news because “we were at risk of losing those jobs.” He said if Highlands had not sold out, it would have taken its operations back to North Carolina.
Anderson also gave an update on the “Red Energy Project,” which was a proposal to convert used tires into synthetic diesel fuel. He said the project is dormant because the feed stock agreements with surrounding local governments could not guarantee and adequate supply. He said he went as far as Anderson County in an effort to find enough supply.
In other matters, Kim Eggers reported on maintenance needs at the Workforce Development Complex, a building Carter County Tomorrow rents from the county and rents to several tenants, including Northeast State Community College.
Eggers said a one-sixth section of the roof needs to be replaced. The low estimate for the repair was $46,000. Eggers said more than $130,000 had already been invested in the building this year, including remodeled bathrooms in the Northeast State wing, new lighting and new microbiology classroom.